Korean Table Manners

In South Korea, as in the rest of the world, there are rules that must be followed when one is at a table, some are more important than others.

Obviously, the more formal the occasion, the more your manners will be important to maintain and will be noticed. For example, if you’re in a business dinner or at your boyfriend’s house, you should be much more careful than on a night out drinking with friends.

But what are these rules? Let’s see them together.

When can I start eating?

In South Korea, as in many other countries, it is a good education to wait for the eldest at the table to eat before starting.

On the other hand, if we are in a work environment, we will have to wait for the person of the highest grade to start eating, even though it may often coincide with the older person and it is not always said to be taken for granted.

Once the meal is finished, it is good to wait until everyone has finished and the elder gets up before leaving the table. It would be perfect to finish eating with others.

Another very polite thing to do, always for the fact that if I do something for myself, I need to do it also for others, for example, if I pour water for myself, I need to do it also for the others that are eating with me.

You will see that they will greatly appreciate these attentions and you will go far in their consideration.


A very important thing to remember is to never plant chopsticks in rice during a meal.

This, in addition to being unpleasant to the eye, is also a gesture that can bring bad luck as it recalls the sticks of incense that are planted in the bowls during the commemoration of the dead. Another thing you should not do is use a spoon and chopsticks at the same time to eat. You should first take the food you can with the chopsticks, then place them, and then use the spoon to eat any soup.

Can I blow my nose?

In Korea, as in other Asian countries, blowing your nose in public is a sign of great rudeness. So it comes from if you blow your nose at the table is really bad because it is considered unhygienic, not to mention the unpleasant noise. So if you urgently need to blow your nose, go to the bathroom or anyway away from the table.

Add seasonings

If you are invited to eat at someone’s home, a really rude thing to do is correct the taste of dishes by adding salt or other spices. This gesture is seen badly because it seems that by doing so you do not appreciate the way the food was cooked. It becomes an indirect criticism of the person who prepared the food and invited you to his home, so even if the soup is insipid, eat it like that.

Thank for the food

As in Italy, we say “good appetite” before eating even in Korea they have their way that as the meaning is slightly different. Before eating it is usually said 잘 먹겠 습니다 which literally means “I will eat well”, but in reality, it is more for “thanks for this delicious food, I will eat it all with pleasure”. At the end of the meal instead, we use the version in the past of the same sentence that is 잘 먹었 습니다, “I ate well”.

These are more or less the most important rules to follow at the table. As I said at the beginning, no Korean will cross you if you do not follow them but show that at the expense of your being foreign you know how you behave at the table will show your Korean friends that you are informed about their culture and that you respect it.

If you have other rules that come to mind, do not hesitate to let me know with a comment!

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